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Tiki Central Forums » » General Tiki » » Why Destroy Tiki Palaces?
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Why Destroy Tiki Palaces?
Limbo Lizard
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 24, 2006
Posts: 779
From: Aboard the 'Leaky Tiki', Dallas
Posted: 2011-02-01 10:31 am   Permalink

I'll take a stab, Cammo.

Business-school trained MBAs, and such, don't want a lot of intangible or unquantifiable variables to consider, as they attempt to analyze business patterns. Let's say we're considering a tiki-theme restaurant/lounge with lots of unique decor, specialty food and drinks, a floor show, etc. Corporate is looking at the figures, perhaps comparing to the figures from other locations with different themes. If sales are up,… why? If sales are down, what is the problem? Is the theme fatigued? Is the manager the problem? Does the decor need refreshed? Are the waterfalls causing a moldy smell? Are the restrooms filthy? Has the service become poor? Is the food/drink quality falling off? There are just so many possibilities to consider, and it's very difficult to “scientifically” determine, with too many unique and “quirky” variables - especially if from a remote corporate headquarters. But, if the "troublesome" variables can be eliminated through a sort of homogenization, then it’s easier to analyze trends (the way they were taught), and recommend profitable changes across the board. The “beige business model” reduces the variables to those that the business-school grad is familiar and comfortable dealing with.
"The rum's the thing..."

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 18, 2006
Posts: 2010
From: San Diego
Posted: 2011-02-01 10:58 am   Permalink

"The plan is this: Today's hectic traveler is looking for some bit of familiarity while in a strange land. If said traveler walks into the local Marriott and it looks like every other Marriott they have ever been in they feel 'safe,' like they are no longer a stranger in a strange land. An even better example of this idea would be Embassy Suites. . . "

This is getting closer, but everybody's still taking this way too personally. I give Chip & Andy A+++++ for being the very first to mention Embassy Suites.

Limbo Lizard is still suggesting that the MBA crowd does not know what they are doing.
Maybe, in fact, they do.
After all, as The Dude notes, the Hanalei Islands Restaurant is more crowded now, (even during Tiki Oasis!) than it was when it was a Classic Tiki Theme...

[ This Message was edited by: Cammo 2011-02-01 11:02 ]

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Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Mar 30, 2008
Posts: 9064
From: The Anvil of the Sun
Posted: 2011-02-01 11:29 am   Permalink

Not to derail your discussion Cammo, but in the early 80s when I lived in San Diego the Hanalei had Luaus every Friday and/or Saturday night. I still kick myself for never having attended one

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Grand Kahu
Grand Member (2 years)  

Joined: Jul 31, 2006
Posts: 189
From: Dallas, TX
Posted: 2011-02-01 11:36 am   Permalink

Indeed, THAT is frightening to consider, that by supporting these places following misguided "renovations" we are only affirming some bean-counter's remodeling scheme. But I tend to agree with the idea that for the general population, tiki themes are not the *broadest* in popular appeal, but rather the sense of familiarness and neutrality are just that -- so one ends up with beige drywall as the universal "theme." Unfortunately, "modernity" or modernization gets the rap here, but this is less about *good modern* (ala the MCM comments) than cheap developer-driven updating. Create a clean look on the cheap, with no designer, architect (beyond what is minimally necessary) and strive to be as unoffensive as possible to the most people. Tiki, being dark, potentially "threatening" with pagan deities, naked bodies, and all sorts of non-PC imagery, is the antithesis of an cheaply "updated" interior lacking any distinguishing features which could be controversial.

I recently commented to a friend about what I expect most would overlook or find entirely innocuous in the changes to Disney's Polynesian Hotel over the last three decades, after I revisited it last year for the first time in many moons. The bright exterior trim colors, remodeling of restaurants, shops and bar were not simply "refreshing" the spaces, but had subtly changed the darker exotic vibe which had existed in the 1970s. Stainless steel and glass co-mingling with ever-friendlier pseudo tiki decor might have literally brightened the place up, thus somehow suggesting a more family friendly environment akin to a mall-side restaurant, but it diminished the continuity of the original theming by introducing materials, colors, shapes, and decidedly expensive renovations. While I have no inside track on why these deviations from the original designs took place, one can see an echo of the more horrifying updates which have obliterated some tiki sites. One can guess the brass viewed the Polynesian as a dated and worn property which needed a higher kid-friendly quotient. Introduce colors, materials, and forms which are familiar from Lilo and Stitch, McDonald's, and any one of a million generic restaurants and vaguely tropical shops to the mix and voila, an update...


Grand Kahu

Tied by my Mai Tai...

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 25, 2008
Posts: 590
From: Long Beach
Posted: 2011-02-01 11:37 am   Permalink

The first thing that came to mind is that people can confuse tiki and consider and interperate it as a religious symbol and that by removing all tikis the hotel feels they will not be conflicting with someones beliefs and religion.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 10, 2004
Posts: 9193
From: Anaheim,Ca.
Posted: 2011-02-01 11:51 am   Permalink


On 2011-01-31 23:45, bigtikidude wrote:
I think that the answer is the Owners/Managers Have their heads up their collective asses.


and the More I think about it.
the General Public has their heads up their asses,
and doesn't get Poly Pop/Tiki.


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Site Administrator

Joined: Aug 10, 2004
Posts: 3434
From: Redondo Beach, CA
Posted: 2011-02-01 12:38 pm   Permalink

Well, whatever the reason, I think it's flawed. Therefore, here's one possible flawed reason.

From a hotel restaurant perspective, and one that is somewhat isolated from other walking distance restaurants, the potential clientele is the people lodging at the hotel. The bean counter thinks he has a captive audience. Ideally the restaurant will move as many customers through the restaurant as fast as possible to maximize income. Any fancy decor or relaxing atmosphere only causes the diners to take their time, thus reducing the turnaround. Get rid of the great atmosphere and your diners per hour goes up!

Flawed in almost every respect...

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 5311
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2011-02-01 12:43 pm   Permalink

Once it became a "Crowne Plaza", it had to look like a "Crowne Plaza" or it would be confusing to those people with the "Crowne Plaza Rewards Cards"... I bet every "Crowne Plaza" has the same lamps in the rooms, and chairs in the restaurant. Maybe they require their front desk staff to answer to the names "Jim" and "Beverly"...

"Mai-Kai: History & Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant" the book

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 07, 2004
Posts: 1961
From: North Coast/ DEAD
Posted: 2011-02-01 1:05 pm   Permalink

in part due to the ignorance of the fact that;
"Pets are welcome,Children 'MUST' be on leash" TD

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 02, 2002
Posts: 1107
From: SF bay area, CA
Posted: 2011-02-01 2:27 pm   Permalink

Will be interesting to hear your take Cammo, but I think there's no grand unifying theory of tiki devolution due to any single biggest factor.

Agree with many of the points raised above. Also I think there's a natural finger-pointing tendency between the perpetual polar opposites - business blames government and government blames business, the hippies blame the squares and the squares blame the hippies, the young blame the old and the old blame the young, etc. In a way they're all right, but maybe tangential to the central question. Here's some lunch break philosophizing about some of the big reasons...

Maybe this is where we can blame the hippies (lucas vigor, that's your cue), for leading the larger cultural shift away from exotic escapism in the late 60s. Or maybe it was the bigger picture of global events, in which the hippies only typified the most pronounced reaction to the times as they were, while other strata of the population were changing of their own accord too. Doesn't make much difference - the fact was that tastes changed. However, today's cultural landscape is far more eclectic, and it's possible to see a Forbidden Island or Smuggler's Cove thriving without being in the mainstream. So the mere fact of changing tastes is probably less a factor than we might think, at least directly.

While changing tastes may not be directly to blame for the trends we see, modern sensitivity (aka political correctness) is having an increasing effect on the esthetics of the world we inhabit. Arbitrary and arrogant committees increasingly have the power to literally dictate the smallest decorative details in private spaces. My neighbor wanted to paint his house, re-do his driveway, and change a bathroom. The city not only vetoed specific color choices on the exterior AND interior, but even dictated the colors he could choose from. This insanity comes from commissioners who profess to be responsible for ensuring good taste, but who in fact have no legitimate grounds whatsoever. For their input on semi-public spaces in the hospitality industry, their reach goes much further, including not only claims on esthetic decisions but also other mushy factors like cultural sensitivity. They're essentially thinking about the lowest common denominator for all planning decisions, where the least offensive always trumps all else. You'll actually hear commissioners say things like, "well I don't like the red." Add on top of all that the regulatory requirements involved in any contracting work (at least anything above board with permits), and the barriers to entry for anyone attempting to create or preserve a unique vision become enormous.

The historical narratives for many midcentury tiki temples are often punctuated (or ended) with the need for major repairs due to rot, mold, etc. In parallel with the physical decay over the passage of years is the simultaneous disenchantment with the original concept and fantasy. Whether a place remains in the hands of the original visionary, or has passed to a next generation, it's easy for the dream to lose its luster over time with the daily grind of upkeep. So imagine an owner facing massive impending renovation costs and dwindling attendance coupled with their own fatigue running the day to day enterprise. They're stuck. If they put off the repairs, this could lead to any number of unappetizing outcomes, including even being shutdown by the local authorities. If they want to take on the repairs, now they have to face a whole new set of regulations, inspectors, and other busybodies who make it nearly impossible to even just re-create what's already there. It's very hard to make the case that they should up the ante with their personal stake in the place, as opposed to the attractive option of selling. With the rarest of exceptions, whatever entity comes along with the financial means to buy the place will have even less stake in the original dream. Not only that, but from the buyer's perspective it's hard to escape seeing the "features" of the original vision more as liabilities in their present aging state - essentially the mistakes of the prior owner that need to be corrected rather than repeated.

The regulatory barriers to entry in most forms of the hospitality business have made it very difficult or almost impossible for the "lone visionary" to create a destination, or even take over and preserve the spirit in an existing place. It's not only the financing, but also the willingness to operate under all the modern constraints of safety, liability, staffing, etc. Only a rare individual has the capacity for all that, PLUS the execution of the day to day things that attract visitors, like good food and drinks. (Another reason to laud modern proprietors of Smuggler's Cove, Forbidden Island, Tonga Hut, Tiki Ti, the Mai Kai) All combined, this is a big reason why "Mom & Pops" are disappearing, and being replaced by much larger corporate entities with the consolidated capital to handle facilities costs, the teams of lawyers to handle and internally oversee all the modern legal and regulatory crap, and the economies of scale for the tasks of running the business. Where the Mom & Pops were about the realization of an idea, the corporate world is about the execution of a business model. In simple terms, that's a big reason why unique ideas are disappearing from the hospitality business (and other industries too, BTW). While there are some examples of business models that actively try to seek out, preserve, and even inject diversity in their different properties, they still can never approximate the wonderful decentralized diversity of another era.

So with all the above context, there's still the question of why a place like the Hanalei restaurant was converted to "boring". It would be interesting to know if anyone involved in the design would argue against that characterization. No doubt they prefer words like clean, modern, and bright. My guess would be that they don't think of it as boring so much as the "winner" in terms of lowest common denominator focus group thinking about the atmosphere that guests find comfortable. Basically the highest ranked consensus choice among a filtered set of options prepared by a design team with their own initial biases aligned with prevailing, self-reinforcing trends. In that kind of context, there's just no room for a strong, exotic vision.

Hope all this doesn't sound heavy handed - these are just some opinions!


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 10, 2011
Posts: 257
From: Denver, CO
Posted: 2011-02-01 2:33 pm   Permalink

Got it! Okay, probably not but here:

"DoubleTree has embarked on a multi-million dollar product enhancement initiative to reinvigorate the hotel experience and provide today's travelers with more of the residential feeling they enjoy at home."

Tiki isn't like home, beige is, so old tiki decorations distract from the "residential feeling"


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Slacks Ferret
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 02, 2003
Posts: 1329
From: Calgary
Posted: 2011-02-01 2:45 pm   Permalink

Perhaps it's space? You can't fit as many warm bodies in a themed restaurant. The things that make it themed will invariably get in the way...

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Chip and Andy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 13, 2004
Posts: 2277
From: Corner table, Molokai Lounge, Mai-Kai.
Posted: 2011-02-01 2:53 pm   Permalink


On 2011-02-01 14:33, gabbahey wrote:
"DoubleTree has embarked on a multi-million dollar product enhancement initiative to reinvigorate the hotel experience and provide today's travelers with more of the residential feeling they enjoy at home."

That is one of the problems with today's mass-market world. If I wanted something that look like home, I would have stayed home. I like my home, but when I go away I want to feel like I am NOT at home, that I am away and on vacation.

I don't go to Home-Style restaurants for the same reason. I have a home, I can cook, and if I wanted mashed potatoes with meatloaf I have all the ingredients ready to go in the frige.

I don't go to 'Residential Hotels' because I want go away, stay someplace different, have hot hotel sex on the 17th floor balcony.... sorry I probably shouldn't have shared that bit.

But! I am not in any of today's 'markets.' I am the statistical outlier on their graphs and charts. And most of us here are probably the same and that very few of us fit into any of the marketing peoples categories.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 19, 2006
Posts: 2511
From: Lemon Grove
Posted: 2011-02-01 3:37 pm   Permalink

Well, it looks like the Crowne Plaza Hotel chain feels we need more value over excess....jeez, the whole world is turning into one big Holiday Inn!

Fueling the growth, says Americas brand chief Gina LaBarre, is a combination of the chain’s refurbishing program, its mix of targeted amenities and services and its emphasis on what she calls “value over excess.

Make lobbies more user-friendly for quick meetings: Instead of heavy furnishings that are tough to move and lack convenient access to power outlets, the chain's testing this new concept: Creating a special, slightly private area that consists of modular, lighter-weight furniture, easy-to-access power outlets, and a plasma-screen TV that up to four laptops can plug into to view documents. The concept has been so popular that non-guests are using the space, which means more food and drink sales, he said. It also may mean that the space may have to be booked, which could be a glitch for hotel guests.

I think I may have to paint the trim on my purple house orange...hell, the flamingos in my front yard might look nice painted in a pretty shade of baby blue too?

"The masses laugh at us because we are different, we laugh at them because they are all the same"

- fun thread Cammo.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 09, 2003
Posts: 3836
From: LA-2547 mls east Hawaii &5500 Easter Is
Posted: 2011-02-01 3:48 pm   Permalink

It is a shame. Shelter Island used to be totally Tiki.
However, we still have Humphrey's Half Moon Inn:

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